ONALASKA — Eight games plus two periods of offensive frustration came to an entertaining halt Friday night for the Coulee Region Chill.
Trailing 2-1 through two periods to the Chicago Hitmen, the Chill finally re-discovered their scoring touch — five times — and won 6-3 in front of 420 people at the OmniCenter.
The win was Coulee Region’s first since Dec. 16, when it also scored six goals and beat Alexandria.
“I hate losing so many in a row; it puts you in a mental funk,”Chill defenseman Matt Blomquist said. “We knew eventually we were going to win. We kept working and finally we got one.”
Chill coach Garrett Strot admitted a moment of doubt after Chicago (7-28-3), which has the second-worst record in the NAHL, took the 2-1 lead on a breakaway in the second period. Coulee Region (12-20-6) had been peppering Hitmen goalie Ryan Coyne, who was making his first career start in juniors, through the first 40 minutes but had little to show for it.
“I thought, ‘Oh, no, here we go again,’” Strot said.
But he kept that to himself. In the dressing room between the second and third periods, he told his team to just keep doing what it had been doing.
The Chill’s offensive outburst started with what looked like a fluky goal. Defenseman Brady Riesgraf sent a slapshot from about six feet behind the blue line toward the goal, and it went over Coyne’s shoulder at 3:43.
Blomquist scored on a long, screened wrist shot at 5:25, and just over two minutes later, Tyler Klein beat Coyne through traffic. David Ripple scored at 14:33 on a power play to make it 5-2 before the teams traded late goals.
“We just had to keep the pressure up,” Blomquist said. “We had them backed in and were getting a lot of shots. Getting so many chances like that, it was good to finally catch a break.”
Chill goalie Aaron Davis made 33 saves for his 12th win of the season.
HUGHES RETURNS: Forward Chris Hughes, who scored 30 points as a rookie for the Chill in 2010-11, will re-sign with the team today. Hughes played 33 games (12 points) for the Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings before the Chill, looking for offense, acquired him this week.
Hughes’ departure for Kalamazoo this past offseason was an amicable one. The Chill granted the Michigan native’s request to try playing closer to home.